Ever since the Firestone debacle that resulted in 280 reported deaths, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has attempted to improve overall tire safety. It recently enacted two new federal regulations to make the rubber that meets the road safer, but one of them got some unexpected interference.
First, NHTSA proposed a new system that would make it easier to trace tires in the event of a recall. A database would allow tire dealers to automatically register tires electronically or give consumers a web address where they could do so. In other words, the little printed card is out, website registration is in.
Second, in a complicated case, a federal panel dismissed a lawsuit brought by the tire industry against new NHTSA rules. NHTSA wants tire pressure monitoring systems to alert drivers when a tire falls 25% below the recommended inflation level for longer than 20 minutes. It should be noted, however, that the tire industry objected because the new rules did not warn drivers of failing tires soon enough, did not require that the system work with replacement tires and did not account for extreme weather conditions.
This makes things more complicated. Automakers hailed the decision, likely because they are the ones who have to pay for a more complicated monitoring system, but likewise the tire industry could be perceived as supporting stricter regulations because the more stringent the standards for a safe tire, the more often they will have to be replaced and the more tires are sold overall. Hopefully, NHTSA found a reasonable middle ground between safety and the wishes of the two industries.
Tire Rules to Improve Safety (Detroit News)